Making a Parquet Floor

Many ships of the 18th century had what looked like a parquet floor in the great cabin. It wasn't actually a parquet floor made of wood but was a canvas with a black/white checker pattern painted on it which acted as a kind of rug. Here is a photo of such a canvas as shown in the ship HMS Victory.

We, as modelers like to add such details to our models. In this tutorial, I will show you how to simulate this checker board pattern in your model ship.

If you have a miniature table saw, you will likely want to use hardwoods as I did in this tutorial such as ebony and holly. However, if all that you have is an Xacto knife, you can still create this effect using softer woods such as basswood and mahogany stripwood. Either way, the technique is quite simple.

Of course, if your model does not have an open great cabin, that creates a new problem in that you will have to modify the bulkheads to open up the great cabin. That is exactly what I did to the Model Shipways kit, Fair American which I cover in my Freshman/Sophomore Course for this kit. Opening the great cabin area will require that you modify the bulkheads in the area of the great cabin, but such a modification is not all that difficult. This next photo shows my Fair American model with a printed checker board floor in the great cabin.

The first step in creating this floor is to use some bond paper or card stock to create a template of the area in the great cabin that you will be installing the parquet floor in. This next photo shows such a template. Once I created the paper template, I used it to cut out a piece of 1/64" birch plywood commonly referred to as aircraft plywood which is often carried in hobby shops and craft stores. You can also find this plywood online at such websites as and

Next, you will need several strips of thin wood. I milled and cut my own strips using ebony and holly as shown in this photo. However, you could just as easily use very thin stripwood in two contrasting colors such as basswood and mahogany or walnut.

Now the strips are glued to the plywood template alternating them to create a striped pattern as shown in this photo.

If you are using stripwood in a kit, this next step will require a fresh, sharp #11 Xacto blade and a small metal ruler. If you are using a miniature table saw, you will need to use a thin blade in your saw so that you don't chip the wood when you make the cross cuts of this glued up striped wood. What you will do is rotate this striped part by 90 degrees and cut strips that result in a checker board patter that is one square wide as shown in this photo.

By now you can see where we're going with this. The next step is to glue these strips onto another piece of 1/64" birch plywood by alternating the alignment of the strips so as to create a checker board pattern as shown in this photo.

I chose to lay the strips diagonally so that the checker board looked like a series of diamonds, but you can just as easily lay the strips side to side or front to back as shown in the second photo above. Here is a photo of the completed floor after gluing all of the strips to the second piece of birch plywood.

A quick sanding with fine grit sand paper and several coats of Minwax Wipe on Poly will finish the floor. Then it's just a matter of gluing it into the model as shown in this photo.

If you enjoyed this short How-to article, you might consider purchasing my Junior Course, Rattlesnake even if you are not ready to build the Rattlesnake or have no desire to build it. This course contains dozens of scratchbuilding techniques to make common parts on most model ships such as bulkheads, a capstan, carvings, painting with wood, etc.

I hope you have found this tutorial helpful in your own model shipbuilding adventures.


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